Prisons across Liberia may be playing host to about two thousand inmates- either found guilty or awaiting trial for various crimes. In some, especially the Monrovia Central prison, the issue of capacity to host these inmates continues to remain a concern. Despite alarms raised from time to time in the Liberian media, very little is done to improve the varying situations at prison facilities.
More than the prevailing unfavorable conditions are the issues of threats against the lives of prisoners allegedly by prison officials and rape perpetrated by other prisoners as captured by a recently released United States Human Rights reports from the Liberian media in 2013. Highlights of the report also include inadequate food, sanitation, ventilation, cooling, lighting, as well as basic and emergency medical care, among others. Many prisoners reportedly supplement their meals by either purchasing food at the prison or receiving food from visitors. As the result of such appalling conditions at the country’s prison facilities nationwide, there are deaths, even though the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice is quoted as suggesting seven per annual.
While some may attribute prison over-rowdiness to the inability of the court system to fast track cases (which we are told is being dealt-with), the unfavorable and the appalling conditions of our prison facilities as released with the report must be something to attract the attention of the Government of Liberia. As we admonish the government to accept this issue in the report in good faith, capacitating the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice to adequately address these solvable issues at our prison facilities across the nation must be emphasized.
Building the capacity of the Bureau would definitely mean adequate budgetary allocation, while partners of Liberia buttress what is offered by the government annually to maintain these facilities. Even though the Ministry of Finance is charged with the responsibility of making these budgetary appropriations, the Legislature’s role in complimenting the projection of the ministry for prison facilities throughout the county will highly be appreciated’. While the US State Department situation report on our prison conditions may not have satisfied our government’s efforts to improve these conditions, it must be accepted in good faith for further improvement in 2014.